On our very first morning in Istanbul, before the sun was fully up, my son and I were awakened by the call to prayer. It was being projected over a PA-system from a mosque about two blocks from us, and he was frightened by the unfamiliar vocalization. I sat down on his bed, and he leaned against me. We watched in silence as one by one, windows in the apartment building opposite ours added to the dim light of dawn. Sleepy silhouettes appeared, stretched, and began their ceremonial prostrations.
It was one of the most beautiful and profoundly sad things I have experienced. A few tears slipped out of my heavily-bagged, jet-lagged eyes. I spoke gently and quietly to my little boy. They believe their god requires this of them, I told him. They believe they have to follow all of his rules and do enough good things to outweigh their bad things for him to let them into heaven. How worried they must always be. Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus did it all for us on the cross? Isn’t it marvelous that our God loves even when we’re bad? What a relief that our goodness and our rightness and our purity are in Jesus!
What a weight the people around us carry. How heavy is the burden of self-righteousness and self-satisfaction. Jesus gently calls us to lay it down, lay it down, lay it down. He speaks love and peace and lightness into our weary hearts as we take up His easy yoke and rest our souls fully in His grace.